London is set in a natural bowl. Its geology, topography and townscape have created many views of its landmark buildings, including St Paul's Cathedral, the Palace of Westminster, the Tower of London and Royal Hospital Greenwich. Some of these views are protected. This exhibit of photographs from the Historic England Archive reveals how these London icons appear from some of the city's viewing points.
Greenwich Hospital from the hill in Greenwich Park, Greenwich, Greater London (1945/1965) by SW RawlingsHistoric England
Views of national significance
For hundreds of years, Londoners and visitors to the capital city have cherished views of London's landmark buildings from a number of locations. These include elevated places like Richmond Hill, Greenwich Park and Parliament Hill, and from sites that take in prospects of the River Thames, including from its bridges.
Today, London has a number of 'strategic views', which are defined as:
Views of national significance from well-known public places, cherished by both Londoners and visitors, and featuring an exceptional landscape or townscape including visually prominent historic landmarks.
View to St Paul's Cathedral from the Millennium Bridge, Southwark, Greater London (2017-08-25) by Chris Redgrave, Historic EnglandHistoric England
St Paul's Cathedral
In 1666, the Great Fire of London destroyed the medieval St Paul's Cathedral. A new St Paul's was built on the same site and since then the building has become one of London's most celebrated landmarks.
Designed by Sir Christopher Wren, the new Classical style St Paul's was constructed between 1675 and 1710. Like many important public buildings in the capital, it is mainly built using white-grey coloured Portland stone. This, together with its massive central dome, help it stand out on its elevated site.
St Paul's is such an icon and source of visual interest that no less than twelve viewing points focus on the cathedral.
View towards St Paul's Cathedral from the viewing terrace at Alexandra Palace, (2017-04-05) by Chris Redgrave, Historic EnglandHistoric England
View towards St Paul's Cathedral from the viewing terrace at Alexandra Palace
View towards St Paul's Cathedral from Westminster Pier, Westminster, Greater London (2017-03-26) by Chris Redgrave, Historic EnglandHistoric England
View towards St Paul's Cathedral from Westminster Pier
View towards Tower Bridge and St Paul's Cathedral from Greenwich Park, Greenwich, Greater London (2017-03-02) by Chris Redgrave, Historic EnglandHistoric England
View towards Tower Bridge and St Paul's Cathedral from Greenwich Park
View upstream from Westminster Bridge, Westminster, Greater London (2017-09-01) by Chris Redgrave, Historic EnglandHistoric England
Palace of Westminster
Along with Westminster Abbey and the St Margaret's Church, the Palace of Westminster and the Houses of Parliament form a UNESCO World Heritage Site. They are significant for their architecture and associations with the history of the nation's monarchs and parliament.
The Palace of Westminster comprises buildings of two main phases: Westminster Hall, which dates to the 11th century, and the Houses of Parliament, built between 1835 and 1860 by Sir Charles Barry with detailing, interior decoration and furnishings by AWN Pugin.
With its river frontage and towers, the Palace of Westminster provides a number of different viewing opportunities. The view pictured here looks upstream from Westminster Bridge.
View to the Palace of Westminster from Serpentine Bridge, Hyde Park, Westminster, Greater London (2017-03-21) by Chris Redgrave, Historic EnglandHistoric England
View towards the Palace of Westminster from Serpentine Bridge, Hyde Park
View towards the Palace of Westminster from Parliament Hill, (2017-03-17) by Chris Redgrave, Historic EnglandHistoric England
View towards the Palace of Westminster from Parliament Hill
A tug pulling a vessel on the River Thames with the Royal Naval Hospital, Greenwich behind (1945/1965) by SW RawlingsHistoric England
Maritime Greenwich is the name of the UNESCO World Heritage Site that comprises a number of historic buildings and parkland.
The ensemble includes the Queen's House, the first Palladian building in England, designed by Inigo Jones and built between 1616 and 1637, and the former Royal Naval College, designed by Sir Christopher Wren.
Often pictured from the hill behind in Greenwich Park, this view is taken from the north side of the River Thames in Island Gardens, which commemorates the spot Wren chose as having the best view of his buildings.
View towards the Tower of London from The Queens Walk, Southwark, Greater London (2017-03-30) by Chris Redgrave, Historic EnglandHistoric England
Tower of London
The Tower of London was inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1988. A symbol of conquest and royal power since the 11th century, it has been in use as a fortress, royal palace, prison and place of execution. It has also housed the Crown Jewels since the 17th century.
This image views the Tower of London from the viewing point on the south bank of the River Thames at City Hall. The viewing corridor from here to the White Tower is a protected view.
A view upstream from the north bastion of Tower Bridge, Tower Hamlets, Greater London (2017-08-15) by Chris Redgrave, Historic EnglandHistoric England
A view upstream from Tower Bridge, with the Tower of London on the right
View of The Mall towards Buckingham Palace from Admiralty Arch, Westminster, Greater London (2017-11-15) by Chris Redgrave, Historic EnglandHistoric England
The Mall with a view towards Buckingham Palace
The Mall was laid out in the 17th century on the edge of St James's Park. It became a fashionable, tree-lined promenade and later functioned as a ceremonial route to and from Buckingham Palace.
Buckingham House was bought by King George III in 1761 for use as a family home for his wife. It was later transformed into a royal palace by John Nash and Edward Blore. Queen Victoria was the first sovereign to take up residence here.
This view looks south-west from Admiralty Arch along the length of The Mall towards the Queen Victoria Monument and Buckingham Palace beyond.
View eastwards from Waterloo Bridge towards the City of London and St Paul's Cathedral (2018-03-14) by James O Davies, Historic EnglandHistoric England
Keep it London
Historic England's Keep it London campaign highlights London's incredible heritage and history.
You can access a number of free documents about England's vibrant capital city, relating to its architecture, archaeology and future development, including more about London's Cherished Views.